In its opening arguments, the Hague prosecution outlined six strategic goals that Bosnian Serb leadership wanted Mladic to achieve.
On the first day of the trial of former Bosnian Serb army commander Ratko Mladic, who is charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the Srebrenica genocide, the prosecution stated that Mladic was in charge of implementing the strategic goals that the then Bosnian Serb political leadership set out in May 1992.
The goals were the separation of Serb and non-Serb population in Bosnia and the establishment of a corridor that would link Serbs in the western and eastern parts of Bosnia, known as the Semberija – Krajina corridor.
Further strategic goals were ensuring that the valley of river Drina, next to the border with Serbia is ethnically ‘clean’, establishing borders along the rivers Una and Neretva by force and carrying out ethnic cleansing and division of Sarajevo.
“Do not set the goals so that we fail. I have thought long about these goals and I discussed them within the closest circle of friends,” said Mladic at the time after he got the orders.
The indictment charges Mladic with genocide in Srebrenica in 1995 and several other Bosnian municipalities in 1992. He is also charged with expulsion of Bosniaks and Croats from the Serb controlled territories, terrorizing Sarajevo citizens with a campaign of shelling and sniping and taking international soldiers as hostages in 1995.
Prosecutor Dermot Groome, spoke about the role of the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, pointing out that despite its general principle of protecting all nationalities it opted only to protect the “Serbian side”.
“JNA allowed the units of Zeljko ‘Arkan’ Raznatovic , the Tigers, to enter Bijeljina and destroy the town,” said Groome.
Before being appointed as the head of the Army of Republika Srpska on May 12, 1992, Mladic was deputy commander of the 9th Corps of JNA, deployed at the time in the Croatian town of Knin.
Groome spoke of “systematic rape of women and men”, citing some of the prison facilities such as Karaman, Secondary School Centre and the “Partizan” Gymnasium in Foca.
“I did not even look up to see who entered or left. They murdered my mother, brother and up to that day more than 50 of them raped me. I was just pulling my hair out, repeating: ‘What are they doing to us?’,” the prosecutor read a part of the testimony by R.M., which will be entered into evidence.
One of the strategic goals which Mladic was supposed to carry out was the division of Sarajevo into two parts, one in which Serbs would live and the other for non-Serb population.
“Mladic encircled the entrance to the city. He controlled who would enter and who would leave. Sarajevo was blocked from all four sides and Mladic himself described it as a mouse trap,” said Groome.
When it comes to the Sarajevo siege, which lasted 1,425 days, prosecutor Groome said that Mladic acquired modified aircraft bombs and fired them on the city. Modified aircraft bombs, the prosecutor explained, are notorious because they are not precise.
“There is no doubt that Mladic controlled the shelling of Sarajevo. He said in 1994 that more shells were fired in a second than in the whole war combined thus far,” said Groome.
The prosecutor also spoke about sniper activity, giving the example of a street along river Miljacka, which was nicknamed ‘The Sniper Alley’. One ex sniper shooter will testify at this trial, said Groome, and confirm he had orders to kill everything that moves around Sarajevo.
“Nermin Divric who was seven at the time was returning home with his mother and sister. The sniper shot him and killed him,” said Groome.
His mother did not know that her little son got killed, but thought he ducked because that’s what she taught him to do whenever the shooting started.
According to the prosecutor, Mladic himself said that with sniper fire he wanted to obstruct transportation, and that every time he went by Sarajevo “he dropped by and killed someone on his way”.
Talking about camps and prison facilities, the prosecutor said that all across Bosnia they served for imprisoning and torturing non-Serb population.
“Places of great suffering, crimes, murders, rapes... insufficient to sustain farm animals, let alone human being,” said the prosecutor, mentioning camps such as Omarska, Trnopolje, Batković, Kula, primary school in Kalinovik, Susica in Vlasenica, the Veljko Vlahovic school in Rogatica.
“In Keraterm in room number three, at one time there were 570 people, they were like sardines... Walls were humid from their sweat and in order to get any sustenance prisoners licked those walls,” the prosecutor quoted from a testimony of a former prisoner.
The prosecution claims it would prove that the members of the UN peacekeeping force had been taken hostage between May 26 and June 19, 1995. Groome said that Mladic’s forces took 200 members of peace forces as hostages, some of them tied, beaten or threatened.
The opening arguments will resume on May 17, when the prosecution would talk about the Srebrenica genocide.
In July 1995 Srebrenica was shelled and occupied by the Army of Republic of Srpska,VRS, despite being declared a protected area by the United Nations. More than 7,000 people were killed, the victims of genocide.
Key dates and events in the Bosnia war.
The Bosnian Serb commander’s role in the genocide committed in Srebrenica is described in detail in many indictments and verdicts pronounced before local and international judicial institutions.